Where Dreams Meet the Business of Writing

An Un-Zen-like Day

An Un-Zen-like Day
Or … Why this Author is Now Bald

crazy cat hairWith startled clarity I realized I was not having a zen-like day. After proclaiming how meditation has improved my writing by opening my mind, expanding ideas and bringing a patience and fullness to the direction of my author’s path, I realized I have missed a key benefit of applying mediation to my writing life.

It was one of ‘those’ days. Or rather, it was one of ‘those’ assignments. You know, the ones you fight and struggle with, have you had any of those?

Actually, the writing itself flowed easily and naturally. It was everything that came after that had me sitting there with clumps of hair in my hands. And today’s aggravations were only my own fault.

Two months ago a quilting magazine accepted my query to write an article featuring my 1934 quilt squares. As part of the piece, I proposed having basic instructions for making a friendship quilt. The deadline was May 20th. Being relatively new to magazine publications, I wanted to submit my article in a timely manner and well ahead of deadlines. I offered it by the end of April (thank goodness!) and volunteered photographs of a few of the quilt squares.

I wrote. I edited. I sat on it for a week and edited again. Lisa cropped five photos for me, so they looked nicer. Off it went, complete with five jpeg photos, well ahead of deadline. Tada! I’m finished and ready to start my next project.

Until … I got the editor’s email. The photos aren’t high resolution enough. Oh, and can I send some additional photographs also, highlighting the anniversary and family reunion quilts mentioned?

Sure! I can have them to you by the 18th (Saturday), I said, fully intending to have them submitted a few days early. I asked (begged, pleaded) Lisa to take some new photographs for me, since her camera is better. She suggested taking the shots outside on a sunny morning and babbled on in Greek about the other things she’d do with the camera to get a better shot. She added that she’d save them as a TIF also.

We reshot five of the 1934 quilt squares. The TIF’s were so large that only one image could be sent in an email.

Meantime, I had a few ideas for six other shots to complement the portion of the article that discussed making your own friendship quilt. I needed to gather a few supplies, print some photos on some iron-on fabric paper, cut some sample quilt blocks, and find some complimentary fabrics to suggest sashing and backing fabrics.

This project had gotten more involved than I’d envisioned.

Thursday (the 16th) I finished the backup work for the six additional shots when I got home from my ‘day-job’ (you know, the non-writing job that many of us have to keep a roof over our heads). By now, it is 5 pm and cloudy. We decided to take the other shots in the morning, since I didn’t go to work until the afternoon that day.

I realized that the photos Lisa sent to me earlier in the week went to my personal email, but I needed them in my work email to forward to the editor. I got up, much earlier than I typically like, and started forwarding the pictures from one email to the other. First, I sent the editor an email with the new and improved JPEG’s and told her that I have TIF images also. They will be coming one at a time. They take a loooooong time to attach and send. Before the first TIF is sent, I have a reply from the editor. The JPEG’s aren’t high-resolution enough; she needs the TIF’s, even if I have to send them one-at-a-time.

Hey, I thought I signed up to WRITE an article. What’s with all this photo-baloney taking more time than it took me to write and revise the article?

While the first five TIF’s were heading off into virtual space, we shot the other six pictures I needed. I start sending those to the editor; one at a time and verrrrrry slowly. It was taking forever to attach, one file took over 40 minutes, then finally told me ‘error’ and I had to start over. (This is probably due more to my old, ancient, computer with virtually no available memory space.) I had to leave for work at 1:30 pm. At 1:40 pm I finally hit ‘attach’ for the last shot & headed to work. Literally ALL morning was spent on taking, attaching and sending photos.

On a break at work that afternoon, I checked my email. (Thank goodness for this new cellular technology.) The TIF’s are perfect. Now, the editor adds, I can embed the low-res images in the document where I want the photos to go and send her that.

Huh? We’re not done yet?

I can’t now, I’m at work. I reply I can send it to her that evening. She replies that Monday morning is fine. Whew!

Then, the hair-pulling started. I have to admit that the frustrations yet to come were my own fault. The editor needed the document by Monday. So, when do I sit down and place the images where I think they should go? Why, Sunday night is just fine, she won’t get the file until Monday morning anyway. So, about 7 pm I complete my newest task, and hit ‘send’.

And then … I never re-check my email before bed one final time.

I get up early. Monday’s are my longest day at work, so I never check email in the morning. On a morning break I check my email …. and discover that what I thought I sent last night hadn’t been delivered; the file was too large.

Fortunately, I’m going home for lunch, which I typically don’t do because I only have a half an hour for lunch. But today I had to make a trip home to bring the older dog in the house before the heat of the day. I email the editor, explain why she’s not looking at a document she thought she’d have, and tell her I’ll send it to her at lunch.

I’ll have 20 minutes in the house before returning to work. It takes seven minutes to turn on my computer. (Yes, I have an antique computer) I run in the door, hit the power button before letting dogs in the house. I grab my salad from the refrigerator while the computer is still doing ‘it’s thing’. I open the document, remove the pictures, add text in red as suggested by the editor, save as a revised document, email the editor, hit send, and run out the door back to work. I arrive back at work panting, but only one minute late.

On my afternoon break, I check email and open up the screen to this message, ‘Was there supposed to be an attachment?’ Arrgh, more clumps of hair are tugged from my thinning scalp. In my haste to get this document revised and sent, and get back to work on time, I’d neglected to attach the file to the email.

That’s when I realized that I was having a very un-zen-like day. The meditations I have been doing to deepen my awareness, and get me in touch with the ‘writer within’ can also be used in a tangible way to reduce stress and increase a calm and peaceful attitude. I have only been looking at how meditation improves the academic nature of my writing. But being a writer, an author, a chaser of the written word also involves aggravations of more than words that don’t flow easily from the fingertips. There are deadline issues, projects that don’t come together easily, photograph complications that we never thought were part of the package, computers and technology that don’t cooperate with us, personality conflicts, differences of opinions, arguments over POV, rejections that outnumber acceptances, editors that don’t do justice to our final product and not enough time in the day to complete what we want to accomplish.

Many say that a writer’s life isn’t easy. (Is any vocation really easy?) Yet, we don’t have to let these roadblocks, obstacles and speed bumps affect our attitude or peace of mind. We don’t have to get caught up in the franticness, the frenzy. We can be a writer with a zen-like demeanor. I can be a writer with a zen-like demeanor. I just have to remember to sit, shake off the frustrations, empty my mind, and just ‘be’; if only for a few moments.

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